Thursday, December 9, 2010

journey of the magi

(This poem still enchants me...especially now. 
Thank you, T.S., for encouraging my imagination)

by T.S. Eliot

A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times when we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities dirty and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wineskins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

elizabeth cate

My niece was born this morning at 3:45am. I suggested the name Luna considering that it was a full moon and all, but they didn't exactly go for that. Pretty sure that's what I'm calling her...She's perfect and looks a lot like Levi did when he was born (minus the red hair). I was able to be in the delivery room while my superstar sister gave birth drug-free, and as lil Luna (see, it's starting already) began crowning, we immediately knew that she was continuing the strong feminine black headedness of our family. My dearest pals Catherine and Pete are giving birth any day now (I really wanted their little girl to get here today as well...two Lunas...let's just make it as confusing as possible...but it looks like she's holding off for the moment) so these days are filled with nursing school, walks in autumn woods, and babies!! It's been my most chaotic, joyful fall in a very long time. Praise God for life....

Sunday, August 15, 2010

a triple divide

Triple Divide Peak, located in Glacier National Park, has the unique distinction of being an apex for three oceans. Here, the Hudson Bay Divide and Continental Divide collide designating its peak as the source for three of North America's great rivers: the Mississippi, Columbia and Saskatchewan Rivers. Precipitation that falls northeast of the mountain follows a network of veined rivers (including Sask) to the Arctic Ocean in the Hudson Bay. Rain falling west of the Continental Divide makes its way to the Pacific via the Columbia, and that running to the south takes a long journey from the Missouri River to the Mississippi to the ultimate destination of the Atlantic in the Gulf of Mexico.

I have yet to climb this mountain or even walk through the pass (though many of my friends have conquered such a feat), but its story has always fascinated me and made me that much more fond of the mountains nestled in Glacier. Perhaps it's because I recognize a similar story within myself. At this point in my life, I am aware of three great locations that have garnered great affection in my heart for somewhat completely different reasons. When emotions or ideas or desires enter my heart, it's most likely that they travel to three different destinations: Nepal, Tennessee or Glacier. Just as the three destinations of Triple Divide's precipitation vary in climate, location, and culture, so the greatest recipients of my affection seem to differ far more than they relate.

Whether it is the children at Harka in Bharatpur, Nepal, the trails and mountains in Glacier, or the communities resting in the urban cultures of Memphis and Nashville, my heart is equally committed to these destinations for the means in which they quench my spirit. I am thankful for the myriad of ways my story has been shaped and impassioned by each one.

My July writings were entirely consumed by the children at Harka, the photos following are testimony to Glacier and the Canadian Rockies where I spent the first three weeks in August with my folks, and presently I am in Memphis...once again. It is here that I will, by God's grace, become a nurse. (I don't exactly know how often I'll be able to write considering that I am already overwhelmed and just started University of Memphis' nursing program last week.)

And so it is that I have been so sweetly reminded of my three great loves and the ways in which my heart yearns for each.

Morraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

Canadian Pacific Railway in Yoho National Park, British Columbia

View of Lake O'Hara from the Alpine Circuit, Yoho

What a camera can do while balancing on loose rock

It takes ten years for this flower to blossom and another 100 years to grow the size of a dinner plate. Watch where you hike, indeed.

Still Lake O'Hara

Dr. Seuss characters

On the shore of Athabasca River in Jasper National Park

Lake Peyto, Banff

View of Grinnell Glacier from part of Mt. Gould

The glacier up close...


Down from Ptarmigan Tunnel

The greatest place in the States: Polebridge, Montana

Saturday, August 7, 2010

"when i get older"

My sweetest friend, Bintu, introduced me to K'naan, a Somali/Canadian hiphop artist, just weeks before my trip to Nepal. I immediately fell in love with his music and carried that love to the kids at Harka. His song, "Wavin' Flag" was the theme for the World Cup and just happened to be the kids' favorite as well. Below are two pieces of proof to their dedication to this song...they definitely knew the chorus by day three. Hilarious.

Friday, July 30, 2010

in memoriam

My grandmother, Jane Weaver Nall, passed away two days ago. It is with a great hope that I believe she is at rest and has seen the promised land.

(a short reflection):

Childhood slumber parties with Nannie and Dappie were always filled with certain expectations. King's Corner would be played, Lawrence Welk would be watched, ice cream would be offered so that Nannie would feel that much more justified in satisfying her sweettooth, and Nannie's warm bed and presence would comfort me to sleep through the night.

It wouldn't be until the following morning, however, that my child-like anticipation would be fulfilled: toast with butter and jelly, eggs, cereal, fruit, orange juice, milk, and water. Perhaps it was because Pop Tarts were my usual morning staple or maybe it was that three glasses to drink from felt satisfyingly indulgent--either way, breakfasts with my grandmother will always be a treasure of my memory.

I am thankful that she slapped too much butter on bread and that she scrambled eggs to perfection. I'm thankful that she taught us Southern hospitality as if she had lived in the South her whole life. I'm thankful that she wrote letters by hand until she could no longer. I'm thankful that my grandmother's memory covered a century. I'm thankful for her loyalty and discipline. I'm thankful that her eyes were open to the light and life of Christ, and that such grace has permeated through her veins and into the hearts of her family.

Monday, July 26, 2010


I'm back in the States drinking coffee to survive the 50 hour traveling weekend that ended late last night. In the midst of spending my last days in Nashville, I took a couple hours in my favorite coffee house to upload some photographs. Here are a few favorites...I plan to add to the previous blogs accordingly and in due time.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

sweet remember

In the past two years Britta and I have received occasional packages from Harka chock full of drawings from the young ones and letters from the older children. As you can imagine, each parcel comes to us as such a surprise and delight. And, inevitably, one of the older children writes a note and the other three or four copy it word for word. The one phrase that has always been more humorous than others is their opening line, "Sweet Remember". It has perplexed me where they heard or conjured up such a statement in the constant game of translation. It came as even more of a surprise when they had no idea what "I miss you" meant. The definition of 'miss' to them was a foreign woman's title. Becca Miss, Birta Reecha Miss...what have you. And then a week or so ago a began to realize that Soniya and Shishir (again, Secil) were continuing an old conversation. "You go America, don't forget me". Don't forget me. Sweet remember.

It seems that our English translation of missing, I miss you, etc. does lack the ability to speak so candidly. Really, at the core, all of us want to be remembered. We want to be known, and continue to be known. Don't forget me. It seems a bit vulnerable, perhaps, to admit such desire, but I believe that any person's heart, no matter how free of need, does long for at least one other person to remember them.

It is with great humility (through a greater grace) that I recognize how much children in general, these children specifically, have taught my prideful spirit. With their limited skills for communicating in English and their cultural upbringing that encourages a more stoic form of relationships, these kids desperately desire to be remembered as they, indeed, remember me. My goodness, what an absolute gift it is to know love.

And so it is that the last few days with the children were filled with a few uncommon adventures and a majority of ordinary ones. I took the older children to internet on two separate days. They wrote Britta an email, looked up photos on my past blog, saw a picture of my jeep, made sure they were updated on WWE action (the 24-hour wrestling channel has been cancelled in the Nepalese jungle...don't you worry though, these kids have plenty of Nepali and Indian sitcoms/soap operas to occupy their fascination) and other random delights that the internet provides.

At the last minute, I was granted permission to tour the Coca Cola Factory (one of two in Nepal) that is located a few miles from the orphan home. Apparently, they only open tours for very special occasions...being from the West entitles you to far too much here. Unfortunately, however, the little kids couldn't come with me. So Manish, Buddhi, Sirjana, Soniya, Sima, Bishal and I walked our way to free Coke (Buddhi and Bishal definitely had three bottles) and a view of how a factory operates that exclusively produces glass bottled Coca Cola products. Two women have the sole purpose of washing every single bottle by hand.

To satisfy the sulking spirits of the young ones (they definitely thought the older kids were getting spoiled at this point), I bought a few large Fantas and Sprite for our last dinner together. Hearing 10 young voices whisper, "Miss, Fanta?" is just about the greatest thing. We danced and threw the frog beanies my sisters and I made for them (I had already sewn five of them back together after 12 hours of action).

Shishir told me that he wants to be a bus driver in America. So I told him that if he gets over there then he's staying with me. Not bluffin. Soniya and Sima kept having to be reassured that I was going to come back after I was finished with school, and Bishal completely and overtly avoided me for the last 24 hours I was there. Tulie started crying when I picked up my bags to head out and I subsequently became a big ole puddle of mess myself. Sweet remember.

The saving grace of such a difficult departure has been company I've met along the way to Pokhara. I shared a bus with a Dutch med student, an Austrian who currently lives in Vienna, and two Texans from Austin. The immediate connections created between travelers is always so refreshing, and considering the fact that I hadn't had a long conversation in several weeks, I was in the mood for meeting interesting folks. We have shared meals and beers and conversation for the past few days.

Dominique, the 20 year old Dutch girl who is in her 5th year of medical school (you do the math...she's ridiculous) has been in Northern Nepal for the past few weeks doing medical research with the cases of Nepalese women that suffer from prolapse. She goes into rural villages with an interpreter to do examinations, make records for future funded operations, and inform women in small ways that they can be more aware of their health. I love the Dutch (still glad Spain won), and have greatly enjoyed Dominique's company the past few days. In fact, she came with me to visit Guru, a friend of mine and Britta's from two years ago, who is now working at a fancy hotel in Pokhara and got married one month ago! We had coffee and tea and were allowed to swim in the fancypants hotel's pool!! Whoot. Then Dominique and I were invited to Guru's apartment to have dinner with he and his new wife. She is adorable and reserved and still getting used to being away from her family and married (culturally, arranged marriages happen very quickly...Guru met and married Meera within three days). So I can see where the new lifestyle takes a while to get used to.

I depart tomorrow for another long weekend of flights. I just bought a traditional Nepalese hand drum that I'll be taking on the plane with me. Either I'll be seen as a crazy hippie in the Abu Dhabi airport or Larry Mullen Jr. will be on my same flight and teach me a few things. Here's hoping for the latter.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

sunshine face

I feel that I have done a poor job introducing the newest members of Harka's family. As Britta and I discovered our first time here, it takes a while to observe well, and by no means do I suggest that two weeks could suffice. That being said, here's a peek into (perhaps a breath of) their stories.

You have read of Kanchi, the 21-year-0ld young mother of 4-year-old Sanju, recently divorced and lover of pretty things. They have only been at Harka for about a month now, and it seems that she has settled in with much ease--naturally taking to the older girls as an older sister herself, and vigorously working to clean and cook as if she is trying to earn her keep...or prove her gratitude. She remains a little fascinated by me considering the fact that I am the only Westerner she's ever actually lived with--I've come to the conclusion that I'm her very own American Girl Doll. Pre-packaged with the promise to decorate as she sees fit.

(post makeover)

This is all made more humorous by the fact that she doesn't know a lick of English and I have a good 28 words of Nepalese. After the red henna in the hair (that lasted all but 4 days), she moved on to decorate my hand with henna. I finally stopped her when she wanted to cut my armhair.

Sanju is your average 4-year-old boy with crazy bursts of energy and emotion. He plays hard and well with Tulie and Jamuna with the habit of trying to get away with pinching or hitting...he is still trying to balance the concept of being his mother's child along with 15 others.

(Sanju on left and Mikreecha on right)

Mikreecha, the new house parent's (Sita and Minude) 3-year-old daughter, suffers from the same affection issue. Instead of pinching, however, she just continues to breastfeed (which if I was a baby, lacked any other milk source, and was the youngest of a whole host of children wanting my mother's attention, I would most likely do the same thing).

Oh my goodness, I love these house parents sooo much more than I did Kumari and Prim. Minude's lack of English and absenteeism (besides the rice working days) has kept a pretty good distance between us, but he is good-natured and as far as I can tell does a good job balancing goofiness and discipline with the children. Sita, I love. She has worked very hard to make her English conversational, and so with my 28 or so words and her slightly more skillful tongue, we can understand each other and laugh and connect. She is 22 years old and about 4'8, but has this giant personality. She and Kanchi not only proved to work constantly while planting rice, but she has also shown herself to keep the rooms and clothes clean while maintaining something burning over a fire. There is no doubt, however, that she is saved by the working force of all the kids. They (mostly) delight in their chores which require several hours of patient focus and diligent work. Such a cycle keeps the small housefarm going.

Suman and Sujan are only the second biological siblings that have entered the mix--the others being the unlikely twinship of Jamuna and Ganga.

(Sujan on left, Suman on right)

Suman is a possible 5 years old to his older brother's 7. They have recently come to Harka under unknown circumstances other than they had no other place to go. I have enjoyed getting to know them. They are both mostly reserved, quiet, observant boys who seem to be waiting to fit into this family of sorts. Susanne, by nature, has more confidence and has found it a bit more natural to know his place. Since school has been out, he follows Ganga, Shishir (editor's note: this has been Secil's name all just sounds much more like a 'Secil' that I didn't realize my inaccuracy until recently) and Bishal to the jungle to be with and direct the set of four goats that the orphan home owns. He takes great pride in these daily adventures as if he's learning a trade or finding a purpose. Suman, with his head slightly always pointed toward the ground and with a constant flow of mucus from his nostrils, sometimes willingly hangs in the corner waiting or wondering of inclusion. Then Ashish will burst forth with the command of a child who was raised in these walls, clasp Suman's hand and bring him to the divine imagination playgroup of the small, less industrious ones. Suman willingly enters and participates. Both of these boys have been the most frugal with my gifts thus far (they also are getting used to such an American). With both the bubbles and the clay, these two have held on to every ounce of soap and color granted them until a very deliberate, chosen moment. Waste not. It's as if they have a more recent, keen awareness of how quickly things can cease to be.

Finally, there is the 11-year-old Bishal (pronounced Bee-sawl).
He has actually been living at Harka for the past year and a half but is new to me...and goodness, I have a great love for him already. Unlike the more stoic Manish and more introverted Buddhi whose personalities lay dormant for a few days only to shine like the sun when you least expect it, Bishal is pretty much always sunshine. If I didn't know better, I would swear that he and Sima were born from the same woman. He is endlessly being clever and asking questions, proving that he pretty much has the best English out of everyone. Friday was the last official day of classes and as I held the girls' hands and more and more children continued to stare at me, Manish and Buddhi were no where to be found, but there was Bishal who deliberately came to me with his best friends in order to introduce me. He is quick to help nurture the young ones not unlike Soniya (helping with homework and reading) and jumps at the second he's asked to do any small task along with his daily goat duties. He and Sima have also managed to memorize the chorus and some verses to K'naan's "Wavin Flag". Sunshine.

I hope to take all 16 different rays of such bright delight with me to the Coca Cola Factory down the road this afternoon. I think they have to wear hairnets.

My time at Harka ends this Wednesday morning when I will be off to Pokhara for a few days. But until next time, I will leave with a favorite quote from Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow:

"For love is always more than a little strange here. It is not explainable or even justifiable. It is itself the justifier. We do not make it. If it did not happen to us, we could not imagine it."